SAFC 10 YEARS AGO: Nyron targets top two, Evans and Connolly boost

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Here’s what the Echo was reporting on Sunderland 10 years ago.

KEANE HAILS DOUBLE BOOST

Fitness cheer for Plymouth crunch

SUNDERLAND boss Roy Keane has been handed a fitness boost with the news that both David Connolly and Jonny Evans could be fit enough to travel to Plymouth Argyle on Saturday.

The club’s most potent striker and accomplished defender were expected to have no chance of being involved in this weekend’s crucial Championship game.

But both have a fighting chance of making the long trip to the South West.

Keane told the Echo today: “It’s really good news as far as David and Jonny are concerned.

“David picked up a really nasty injury in training last week where it looks as though he’s definitely broken his nose and we were worried about damage to his eye socket.

“He has had stitches and we weren’t really thinking of him in terms of this weekend’s game.

“But he has come along really well and he has a genuine chance of being involved this weekend.

“The same goes for Jonny who turned his ankle quite badly in training the other week.

“We had thought that he was out for a week or two at least. But the way these young lads recover from knocks can be exceptional.

“And we’re a little surprised that there’s a chance he could be involved this weekend.

“But we are monitoring him with a view to him playing against Plymouth if his recovery continues in the way it has done so far.”

Midfielder Liam Miller, who damaged his hamstring in last Tuesday’s 0-0 draw at home to Crystal Palace, is another who could come into contention.

But Keane insists he will take no risks.

He said: “Liam had made good progress, but that’s one that we are going to have to watch. I’ve had hamstring strains myself and felt good enough to play but it’s turned out to be the wrong decision.

“It’s one thing running on a treadmill and feeling fine and quite another thing to be out there in cold weather when your hamstring can tighten up.

“So as far as Liam is concerned, we are pleased with his progress but we are very conscious not to ask too much of him.”

Meanwhile, striker Stephen Elliott continues to struggle with an ankle problem which is under further investigation.

Midfielder Graham Kavanagh continues his rehabilitation work from a knee joint operation and still faces about eight weeks out.

NYRON: ALL SYSTEMS GO FOR AUTOMATIC

NYRON Nosworthy believes it is time for Sunderland to retrain their sights towards automatic promotion.

The Black Cats go to Plymouth on Saturday sitting in seventh place in the Championship, two points outside the play-offs and just six points behind the automatic promotion slots.

Sunderland started the season targeting a top-six finish, but defender Nosworthy reckons they now have a great chance of going one better and securing one of the top two berths.

He said: “We’re just a couple of points outside the play-offs now and winning promotion is our main goal.

“There are 15 games to go and all we can do is keep on trying to win as many games as we can.

“The teams above us are all decent sides, but, if we keep on winning, I don’t see any reason why we can’t climb above them and get into the automatic promotion places.”

Nosworthy has been in terrific form since being switched from his natural full-back role to central defence, and he has been a key figure as Sunderland have kept five clean sheets in their last seven games.

Sunderland have also made an impressive start to 2007, going five games unbeaten – and taking 13 points from a possible 15 – since the turn of the year.

He said: “We’ve had some good results recently and we have been looking for a run of this kind of form all season.

“We’ve finally found a bit of form and long may it continue.

“We won on Saturday and if we had won the previous game against Crystal Palace, rather than drawing 0-0, then we would have been in an even better position than we are now.

We are unbeaten since the start of the year and we need to keep that going, so the very least we have to be looking for is a point away from home this weekend.

“We’ve kept a few clean sheets since Christmas and that’s been a massive help to us – we’ll always score goals, and if we are keeping clean sheets too then we have got a very very good chance of promotion.”